Debt Trouble and Reverse Mortgage

Question: My husband and I have accumulated $75K of credit card debt. Over the past five years we have suffered a few layoffs, and I now make half the salary I used to. We are not living high on the hog or spending extravagantly. We used the credit cards for lots of necessities and airline tickets to visit family.

Our combined income is now $60K per year. We are current on our bills and our mortgage, but we keep adding to the credit card balance to stay afloat.

We are considering asking our in-laws for a $75K loan to pay off the debt. They own their $900K home outright. Would a reverse mortgage be the best way for them to get the money? If they do agree to the plan, should it be a gift or a loan? We're agreeable to any plan -- we're drowning. Help! Please withhold my name. Denver, CO.

Answer: You have a lot going on. But let me get right to your question. No, your in-laws should not take out a reverse mortgage. It would be a bad financial move on their part. Yes, reverse mortgages are an option for aging homeowners. But they're expensive. The way I look at them is as a last resort, a safety net after all other options have been exhausted.

It also seems to me that they are taking on a real risk lending you money Do you really want to get financially entangled with family? And if they do loan you the money how will you pay them back and over what time period? I understand that you've head some real setbacks and are deep in debt. I'd really run the numbers to make sure you have a plan for getting out of debt. I would also think about working with a debt management company. You can check them out at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at www.nfcc.org.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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